Writing Poetry

Poetry writing doesn't have to be limited to moments where poetry is the focus text in the classroom. As poems are short observational pieces they can be written across the curriculum and in response to other texts and experiences. Most of CLPE's Power of Reading Teaching Sequences use poetry as a powerful way to support children digging more deeply into the detail of the texts they are engaging with.  Key to children's success in the writing of poetry is being in an environment where poetry is shared regularly and where they have regular opportunities to hear and respond to high quality poetry. 

Poetry Journals
Encouraging children to keep a journal where they can note words, events and even poems or stories that they might want to use in their writing is a powerful way to give them ownership of their work. Most of the poets featured on the site discuss keeping a notebook on them to write observations and ideas down in. These journals shouldn't be marked and childrne should be encouraged to use them how they please, maybe making notes or drawing pictures. You might want to use them in focussed exercises, making observations on a trip or in the school environment but children should also have time to write about what interests them. 

Using poems to inspire writing
Limiting children's poetry writing to work which closely follows the pattern of a work by a professional poet limits their creative scope. Poetic form can, be obstacle to children who are beginning to write poetry. This is because most ideas of what a poem ought to look like are based on traditional poetry, on its regular verse form and strict rhyme schemes. It is important therefore that children experience a wide repertoire of poetic forms that they can explore and experiment with in their own writing. In doing this children start to find a way to choose the best ways to present their ideas in poetry. Children who are exposed to an environment rich in poetry where Reading aloud and Re-reading is prevalent will start to take on the voices of the poets they like in their own writing. Valerie Bloom in her video What Advice would you give Budding Young Poets? below says:

I remember when I was at primary school I wrote something and I was very proud of it and my teacher said I told you to write you own and not copy from somewhere else. You are writing about barns and snow. We don’t have barns and snow in Jamaica so you must have copied it and that was when I realised that in my head what I was reading was reality and what was around me was way off and I hadn’t even realised that I just transferred what I’d read in all my readings because all the books we got were from England or America was reading into what I was writing But you will find that the more you read the more at first you start writing as the people you like to read but that develops into your own voice eventually. You then are writing what you want and how you want it but it takes a while It’s like learning to walk learning to write poetry is a bit the same you take little tottering steps until you can stride.

Poems that are shared in the classroom should demonstrate what is possible in the language, form and structure of poetry and children should be given opportunities to respond to poetry identifying what they like and dislike and identifying features and strategies that the poet has used. A fantastic example of a child doing just this is shown in the video below. Mahir has responded to Joseph Coelho's poem Gingerbread Man.

You might want to use the Poetic Forms and Devices section of this site to share poetry across a range of forms with the children. When preparing a session of poetry writing consider what your primary focus will be, are you exploring a particular form? If so you might give the children the opportunity to choose the subject matter, identifying which subjects are best discussed in which form. If the focus is exploring a particular subject you might choose to give the children a choice in which form they are using, empowering them to match form to content. This provides opportunities for discussion and can be supportive when Editing and Redrafting

Word Play and Word Collecting
One of the most basic pleasures of poetry is the pleasure of wordplay, the opportunity for playing games with language and for using all the elements of language to the full, so that the shapes and sounds and rhythms of words are enjoyed as well as their meaning. Every word in a poem counts and offers the reader another way of looking at or questioning the world. Encouraging children to collect words and phrases from poems that they particularly like will draw attention to this and will give them the freedom to explore and experiment in their own writing. Roger McGough talks powerfully about how he uses word investigations in his video below, How do you work on your poems?

Inventing Word Play
Not all word play needs to make sense. One of the pleasures of language is the possibility of wild invention, and the delights of nonsense. 

Collaborative Poetry
Creating poems collaboratively provides opportunities for children to discuss the effect of the words that they are choosing and using in their poetry. Encourage the children to discuss the words, explaining to each other why they were chosen and the effect they have. Consider and reflect on the poetic devices present and why they were used by the author. Michael Rosen describes the process of constructing a poem orally in his video below.

Using Personal Experience and Interests
Personal experiences and memories can provide a powerful stimulus for children’s poetry writing. Episodes from family life and childhood are often particularly rich and vivid sources of experiences which can be recalled and explored. Through poetry writing, children are encouraged to reflect on their experience, to recreate it, shape it, and make sense of it. In a poem it is possible to give form and significance to a particular event or feeling, and to communicate this to the reader or listener. Joseph Coelho uses personal experience a lot in his poetry and reflects on it in his video What inspires you as a poet? below.

Finding a Voice through Art:
 Art is a natural aspect of the curriculum to combine with poetry. After all, poetry deals with image and imagery and many poems are based on the sort of close observation of real life subjects which can also be the basis of work in art. When planning and developing ideas for poetry children find it supportive to draw an image before composing the poem using the drawing as a way to strucure their ideas and create a focus for their observations. John Lyons discusses how art is in an inspiration for his writing in his video What inspires you as a poet? below.